LIVE FROM CES ASIA, SHANGHAI: Digitisation and sustainability are forcing the automotive industry to undergo the most profound change in its near 130-year history, claimed Audi chairman Rupert Stadler.
Delivering the pre-show keynote this afternoon to a standing-room only crowd at a hotel near the CES venue, Stadler said the auto industry has never had to change as fast and as completely as now. “We are experiencing a digital revolution that is having a faster and stronger impact than the industrial revolution. This [change] is the new normal. It will not stop.”
He said nobody needs street maps anymore, nobody wants big dictionaries and no one will look around for a payphone. “And why should we? A single device can do all that. It’s not a matter of if we want a digital life, it’s a matter of how we shape the digital future.”
The car of the future is closing the gap with smart technologies, he said, and digitalisation has changed the way Audi produces cars. “We use production processes at our smart factories that include completely digital workflows, 3D printing of certain parts and robotics. It has also changed how we sell cars – we have introduced virtual showrooms with almost no cars.”
It also is changing the firms Audi works with. He said new partners include hardware and software firms that are coming up with new car concepts overnight, search engines with mobile add-ons, data owners and new mobility service providers.
The other huge force changing not only automakers, but almost all sectors, he said is the push for sustainability. Pressure to reduce emissions and improve the quality of life is driving its move to plug-in hybrids and electric cars.
Stadler said Audi was early in talking with other industries and has been willing to take risks because it sees huge opportunities across many areas, including autonomous vehicles.
According to the World Health Organisation, 1.1 million people die in automobile accidents each year, with 90 per cent caused by human error. Piloted driving has the potential to make driving much safer, he said.
With the rise of the Internet of Things and data consumption forecast to grow tenfold over the next decade, Stadler applauded the Chinese government’s new Internet Plus strategy and its planned $182 billion investment to boost broadband access and speeds.
He noted that China is now Audi’s biggest market, and six out of ten vehicles are sold outside of Europe, compared to just one in ten 20 years ago. It entered China in 1988.
Autonomous city test drive
Visitors to its booth have the opportunity to go for an 8km test ride on the hectic streets of Shanghai in an Audi R8 e-tron controlled by its piloted-driver feature.
Ricky Hudi, Audi’s VP of electronic development, also mentioned the company’s announcement on Friday that it is enhancing its partnership with internet search and maps provider Baidu to boost its connected car offering in China.
The plan is for the two companies to integrate Baidu’s CarLife platform into Audi cars. CarLife is specifically designed for smartphone integration in cars, similar to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Its roadmap includes the Audi virtual cockpit, the Audi tablet and the Audi smartphone interface, which Hudi said will all be made possible by its innovate electronics architecture — the modular entertainment platform it is working with Nvidia to develop.
He said it is also working with Huawei to develop China-specific LTE modules.